Making a Major League rehab start, left-hander Francisco Liriano allowed just one run and struck out eight over 5.0 innings, while shortstop Jordy Mercer drove in three to help lead the Indianapolis Indians (15-7) over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (8-12) 5-1 on Thursday night at Victory Field.
Liriano, who previously allowed just one run and struck out eight in his Triple-A debut at Victory Field on June 20, 2005 while a member of the Rochester Red Wings, returned with nearly identical numbers, surrendering just a single score on four hits and no walks while striking out eight over 5.0 innings pitched. With the effort, Liriano earned his 11th straight victory at the Triple-A level, after earning 10 straight victories with Rochester during the 2008 season.
Following Liriano’s lights out effort, the Indianapolis bullpen continued it’s stellar season with 4.0 scoreless innings combined from RHP Brooks Brown, LHP Mike Zagurski and closer Vic Black. Brown (2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO) tossed two scoreless frames before Zagurski (1.0 IP, 1 SO) and Black (1.0 IP, 2 SO) tossed two perfect innings to finish out the victory.
Indianapolis got all the runs it would need early in Thursday night’s contest, with two scores in both the first and second frames. The top of the Tribe lineup led the way as CF Alex Presley (2-for-4, 3 R, 1 BB), 2B Josh Harrison (2-for-3, 2 R, 1 BB) and Mercer (2-for-4, 3 RBI) combined for six hits, five runs and three RBI.
Presley began the first scoring rally with patience, drawing a lead-off walk in the bottom of the first, before a base hit from Harrison and walk by 1B Matt Hague quickly loaded the bases. 3B Jared Goedert then plated Presley later in the frame with a bases-loaded walk, before RF Jerry Sands followed with a free pass of his own to force home Harrison for the Tribe’s second score, putting Indianapolis up 2-0.
The Tribe then tacked on two more scores in the second inning, once again sparked by Presley, who rolled a one-out bunt single, moved to second on a passed ball and came to rest at third on a wild pitch. Harrison followed Presley by coaxing a free pass and immediately stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Mercer, who roped a double to right to bring home two more runs and give the Indians a 4-0 advantage.
The trio also added what proved to be an unneeded insurance run in the fourth when Presley slapped a one-out single, moved to third on a base hit by Harrison and came around to score on an RBI base knock by Mercer. With three runs scored on the evening, Presley tied his own team-season high, while Mercer matched a team best with three RBI.
Lehigh Valley brought home its lone score at the outset of the game when 2B Cesar Hernandez led off the contest with a base hit and quickly came plateward when 3B Cody Asche followed with a double.
IronPigs starter Ethan Martin (4.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4 SO) struggled with his control throughout the evening, allowing five runs on six hits and six walks on his way to suffering the loss, falling to 1-2 on the season. The Lehigh Valley bullpen, however, turned in a stellar effort following Martin, as RHP Justin Friend (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 SO), RHP J.C Ramirez (1.0 IP, 1 SO) and LHP Jake Diekman (1.0 IP, 2 BB) combined to allow just one hit over 4.0 scoreless innings of relief.
Indianapolis and Lehigh Valley will wrap up their four-game series on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. RHP Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 5.56) is expected to get the start for the Tribe, while the IronPigs are scheduled to send RHP B. J. Rosenberg (0-0, 6.00) to the mound.